Seabury & Johnson Advertising Covers

As I explain on my A is for Advertising Cover page , the late 19th century was the golden age for elaborate, beautiful envelopes like the ones below, and you can expect to pay $400 - and up - for beauties like these, produced by the Seabury & Johnson pharmaceutical company. I scanned these images from auction catalogs, where they did not show the reverse side, which on these is usually as elaborate as the front.

Click on any image for a high-res version




The one S and J cover I do own, above, which I got cheap because it was cut off at the left, removing almost an inch of the design, includes a letter on their stationery. I like covers with enclosures, but usually the ones in advertising covers are just advertising, and not very interesting. This one is a very newsy personal letter from a young woman to her sister, and a real delight. Here's a scan of the first page:

Don't worry, you needn't try to puzzle that out, I've done it for you below. It appears from what she writes that her last name is Gilbert, which is not one of the names listed as a company officer, but I assume her father (mentioned several times) must have been an executive of the company, else how did she have the stationery and envelope so handy? Certainly her family is very well-to-do, from the life she describes. Here is my effort at transcribing the letter's text. (Any help with the words I couldn't make out will be most welcome - see original below, and e-mail me at ) By the way, Don't miss the list of the products S & J sold, on the left side of page 1!   In case you have not seen it, here is my page with a brief history of Seabury & Johnson. And don't miss the update at the bottom of this page, a descendant of George Seabury has written to clear up some of the mysteries.

New York, March 27, 1898

Dearest Rena,

Brand new bottle of ink - the "Olympia" (??) has returned and so all prospers at the Gilbert Cottages and in spite of the dull day my spirits are greatly cheered, perhaps it is that your charming sister arrived safely and we have slumbered the stupid patches of the Sabbath away (I wasn't sure about "Sabbath", but I found here that 3/27/1898 was indeed a Sunday, so I think I'm right). Father is well and pleasant and so my lot is to be envied, there is always a something (?) though and as you know I wish I were within "two," (?) steps or horn blows, of you. Thank you so much for your letter Helen delivered it immediately.

Must tell you saw two of Mr. Campbell's daughters, of Brooklyn, and they are the same dear girls, were dressed in sporty attire.

Last night we visited the "Big Hotel", greeted the Stirlings and cast glances at Mr. Dick Croker, looks just like his pictures in the Metropolitan. All the "tuffies" are here, but they were not the attraction, Mr. Miller, the slight of hand gentleman, who drops 'is h's and gives things a "tar-o" {thorough} cleaning - our Hopalong (???) friend, you should have seen his face when he spotted father!!

As usual our seats were well forward and Helen furnished her handkerchief as a valuable aid to the clever trick of rings and handkerchiefs, you know the one I mean, we all chuckled when he turned it a most beautiful green.

Saturday afternoon father and I went out to the diamond to see the Giants practice, such fun, we were on a bench with all the reporters and messenger boys and I can tell you we heard some very choice language, if you could have heard the small boys discussing the proud and noble Gould( Gerald??) airs (???) in their own tongue, if they ever meet Kingdom (???) in the dark, guess the title (???) will descend, they are going to kill "The Kid" for throwing bricks and stones at them - no wonder.

From a light conversation we had this morning, father expects me to go to you, don't mean he expects but rather realizes I am going, but as you can't tell, a word from you will certainly not be amiss.

Mrs. Harding was at the station Saturday and she told me her husband was a "fine looking fellow" and just to look at him, as I had my eyes on the watch for someone else, alas I missed him.

Hope you are as well as usual, lots of love and a kiss

Devotedly

Sister Genie


Here, if you want to make your own effort at deciphering those question marks, is the actual letter.

Click for high-res versions


February 21, 2002 - One of the great pleasures of owning this web site has been the feedback from readers. When I published this page in April, 2001, I hoped someone who knew a bit more about the company might write to fill in some background, but I considered it unlikely I would ever learn more. A day ago I received email from a woman who is the great-great-grand-daughter of George J Seabury himself, and recognized the handwriting on my letter as that of her great-great-aunt Eugenia Seabury, George's daughter. Here was her initial letter:

The letter on your web site was written by my Great great Aunt, Eugenia Seabury, to her sister Rena Seabury. My family called her Genie. The signature must be some form of that. We have a number of photographs that were used as stationery from my Great Great grandfather, George John Seabury. How did you get this letter? I wonder if there is more out there. As soon as I saw the handwriting I knew who had written it. My grandmother, Rena, had almost the identical penmanship. It was nice to see it again, A.H.
I was delighted, of course, and here is the exchange that ensued:
Dear A.H. - You've made my day, as the saying goes. I published the letter, text as well as original, just on the wild hope that someone would know more, and never dreamed it would be someone as close to the source as you. You leave unanswered at least one mystery, i.e., the reference to "the Gilbert Cottage". That led me to believe the letter was from not a Seabury, but a Gilbert. It makes far more sense that this was G J Seabury's daughter, and I am very pleased to learn that. I see now that you are correct, the signature is certainly "Genie".

I bought the letter for its envelope, from a local stamp dealer (in Walnut Creek, CA) - the envelopes used by S&J a century ago are famous, and avidly sought by collectors. It was just my good fortune that the one I bought contained the letter as well - most of the letters got discarded along the way, but I think the fact that this one was on the company stationery saved it. There could certainly be more, saved for the same reason.

I'm curious what led you to my web site, as you are plainly not a stamp collector.

W.S.
Dear W.S. - That is so encouraging that I could help solve a mystery. I frequently search the internet for information about my great-great grandfather and sometimes his company. It just happened that I searched on Seabury and Johnson last night and found the letter. I saw the Rena at the top and knew it had to be from her sister or father who often travelled together and went on many glamorous voyages, Egypt, China, Africa, etc. Eugenia never married and lived a very long life ending her years in Cambridge Mass. She was my mother's most dear aunt as my grandmother had no sisters. A.H.
Dear A.H. - Were you able to resolve any of the question marks in my effort to transcribe the text? It sounds as though you've had practice. W.S.
Dear W.S. - I e-mailed the link to your site to my Aunt. I expect she can help. I will try to get my mother to look at it soon. I am sure she can fill in the blanks as she is more expert at translation than my Aunt.

I will be sure and let you know if they can decipher it. I still can't believe that I found the letter at all on the internet. There is actually a lot about George Seabury on the internet, inlcuding his grave site in Rosedale Cemetary in NJ. Which I think is where these two sisters are buried in the Seabury crypt. A.H.
Dear A.H. - Thanks - glad I could add a note or two to your family history. W.S.
Dear W.S. - I sent the link to my Aunt and she has already called to say she is busy deciphering it. My mother is actually going to go to the library and use a computer and read it. I think she is our best hope of translating the hard words. We think this letter is from around the time that my grandmother's brother was born, perhaps the reason for the visit. Also I noticed on your site about Seabury and Johnson history it mentions that his son Robert took over the company after George's death. I can with certainty say it was not his son. George Seabury had four children, two of whom died in childhood, the other two you have the letter from. There were no sons. It could be a relative I suppose no one is really sure about the company details as the only male heir to his company would be the son born in 1898 to his daughter. He would later die tragically in a sledding accident as a young teen. A.H.
Dear A.H. - I'll have to try to remember where I got that misinformation about "son Robert". Glad we have inspired your mother to go digital. Thanks for all the family history, I would like to construct a family tree, if possible.

Here's another interesting coincidence - your letter this morning was the first response I have had to that particular page since I published it on 4/19/2001. But this afternoon I had another inquiry about it from a man who has a site devoted to medical preparations containing marijuana (!), and apparently some of the S&J products did, so he wants to copy some of my images for his site. What next? W.S.
Dear W.S. - I wish I knew beyond my Great Great grandfather. I don't know his parents or beyond, that has been a goal of mine to figure out. I know he married a woman named Ella Benson. I have a gut feeling that he may have married her because of the Benson plaster connection. I noticed that one of Seabury and Johnson's products is the Benson plaster or something like that. They had 4 daughters: Rena Symms Seabury whom the letter is addressed to, Eugenia Ricksecker Seabury, and Lilian and Sidney who died. I have been trying to input all the generations up to mine into a program but never seem to have time. I know my mom will be the most help in deciphering the handwriting as she has the knack for it. My older aunt is better at the family history recollections as she was old enough to remember things my mom and aunt don't.

I really enjoy family research. I have learned a lot about George Seabury I wouldn't have without the internet. It is kind of interesting to note that the address to my Great grandmother is in Llewellyn Park which was the home of Thomas Edison and my grandmother remembered sitting on his lap as a child and calling him 'uncle Alva'. This letter has been fun to read and really brought up some fond memories. My mom was excited enough to go to the library tomorrow and use the internet. She has other letters from Aunt Genie but none so old. The other letters from George are usually letters on photographs of himself. He also wrote a book if you are really interested in him. It is called 'Ode to Lake Bass'. He illustrated it and wrote the prose as well. It is fun to read. I think there are some speeches he gave before Congress as well in the Library of Congress. I read today or yesterday that he was a delegate to the electoral college. I guess at some point I should make a web page and put all this info there. A.H.
Dear A.H. - I really appreciate your sharing all of this with me - reading and deciphering your aunt's letter was a real treat for me, as she wrote so entertainingly about the details of a day in her life, and it included references I could trace on the Internet to other important events and people of the time. I wanted to know more about her, but was sure I never would, so all this information is great. I will update my web page soon and let you know when I do that so you can see the result. I encourage you to do that web page of your own - I will certainly put a link to it from mine, and would be glad to offer tips if you want them. W.S.
2/25/2

Dear W.S. - I found out from another relative that Robert Seabury was George's brother. Not his son. A.H.

I updated the history page with that information - GO HERE.

So my work in publishing this page paid off in a very entertaining exchange and some additional information about my letter, its writer, and George Seabury. Can anyone add more?


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Revised -- 02/25/2003